The NSW Farmers’ Association has expressed its concern at the release of a report into flying foxes which has failed to consider the impact of these native species on fruit orchards and other agricultural sectors.
The “Living with fruit bats” report, tabled in the Australian Parliament, lists four recommendations to better manage flying fox populations. Disappointingly, none of the recommendations deal with the impact of flying foxes on Australia’s multi-billion dollar horticulture industry, nor include a role for the agricultural sector to help manage flying foxes.
Brett Guthrey, Chair of the NSW Farmers’ Horticulture Committee, said he was concerned that the committee may not have consulted widely enough to ensure agriculture was properly considered in assessing the impact of this species.
“The lack of acknowledgement of farmers would suggest the Committee views this as a city-only problem, only requiring cosmetic solutions. Instead they missed an opportunity to involve farmers, local councils and other groups to better manage food sources across the entire landscape.
“A reliable food source for flying foxes comes from orchards which are often located close to built-up areas. In times of shortages of native food sources, like flower blossoms in the bush, a flying fox will turn to the vulnerable fruit orchard nearby, leading to extensive damage.
“Australia’s horticultural industry is worth more than $4 billion annually. Unless we manage pests like flying foxes, which attack fruit trees and strip them of their fruit, Australians will face higher prices for their favourite fresh fruit, and export market opportunities will be reduced as well.
“The Turnbull Government should carefully consider these recommendations before tabling any response. We would be happy to take the environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, on a tour of orchards impacted by flying foxes so he properly understands the challenges faced by farmers,” Mr Guthrey said.
Meantime, the NSW Farmers’ Association has today renewed its call for state funding to continue the successful flying fox netting programme. The programme has seen more than 700 hectares of nets installed on vulnerable orchards. Around 260 hectares still needs to be netted around Orange and Batlow.